David Robert Tanis – author, attorney, judge, decorated Vietnam Veteran, devoted dad and husband died of natural causes in Hampton, VA on August 1, 2023. Dave was born on May 23, 1941, in Paterson, NJ. He was recently predeceased by his wife, Stefanie. Dave is survived by his two children, Stephen Tanis of Fort Lauderdale, FL and son-in-law, Richard Garraputa, and Colette Tanis Griffin of Winton-Salem, NC and son-in-law, Bruce Griffin, and Dave’s two grandchildren, Samantha Griffin Donley of Bellevue, KY, and Stephen Griffin of Winston-Salem, NC, all of whom he adored and loved immensely.
Dave was a man of integrity and service, and his life’s actions displayed his valor at every step. Possessing great athletic ability, Dave attended Lehigh University on a basketball scholarship. Having earned a degree in Political Science, Dave was determined to build a career in the military. Upon graduation, Dave joined the U.S. Army, and after Officers Candidate School and parachute training, was fortunate to be among the first second lieutenants in the Army’s Green Berets. While in the Green Berets Dave met and married his wife Stefanie, originally from Crimmitschau, Germany. As his wife continued to learn English, Dave studied and became fluent in German and he spoke other languages, including French and conversational Russian. Dave served as a French interpreter for five high ranking officials from the country of Laos and fondly spoke of his service in the Green Berets.
In June 1970, as an infantry company commander in the star-crossed Americal division, Dave was seriously wounded in combat in Vietnam, losing both legs and receiving multiple shrapnel wounds which plagued him throughout his life. For his service, Dave received multiple medals, including The Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal, and The Purple Heart. Dave’s wounds, however, did not diminish his spirit for learning and living. During his over 20 months stay at Walter Reed Hospital, Dave attended graduate seminars at George Washington University and then attended graduate school at East Carolina University where Professor (later United States Senator) John East took him under his wing. Officially retiring from the Army with the rank of Captain, Dave moved his family to Winston-Salem to begin a new life and to attend Wake Forest University Law School. Having passed the NC bar exam on the first attempt, Dave continued to build a highly successful career as an assistant district attorney, district court judge, and trail attorney in Forsyth and surrounding counties – a career that spanned over 35 years.
Dave served as President of the Forsyth County Criminal Trial Lawyers and the Chairman of the North Carolina Vietnam Veterans Association where he was responsible for fundraising, design and construction of a memorial park for deceased North Carolina veterans of the Vietnam war, which is now located in Davidson County. Dave was always a trooper, and he was especially humbled to be able to honor his fellow soldiers of the Vietnam war with this lasting tribute.
At every turn in Dave’s life, he surpassed the enduring difficulties of his disability, serving as a coach and on the board of the Northwest Forsyth Little League. Pulling from his experience as a college basketball player, Dave also coached the High School Junior Varsity basketball team at Bishop McGuinness High School.
Upon retirement from the legal profession, Dave and his wife Stefanie moved to the family summer home in Duck, NC, at which point he began a long-awaited career as a writer. Dave’s son, Steve, recalled the many wonderful and fanciful bedtime stories his father would spontaneously create – adventure stories that would continue for weeks. Dave published three novels centered around legal satire and often based on the many humorous scenarios he experienced during his legal career. Dave’s last book, The Mind is a Terrible Thing and Other Slightly Weird Stories, is a collection of short stories and was finalized a week before his death – it was a project that he was most intent on finishing and a fitting culmination to a most extraordinary life as a husband, father, grandfather, and truly admirable man.
Dave’s children are honoring their father’s directives for burial at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. A burial date is pending. In lieu of flowers and in Dave’s honor, the family kindly requests considering a donation to the Disabled American Veterans. Please share condolences with the family at gallopfuneralservices.com. Gallop Funeral Services was entrusted with arrangements.